The old-school Shiogama Wholesale Market is often the next stop for folks who have decided to check out the early morning tuna and fish auctions at the nearby Shiogama City Fish Market. The city of Shiogama has the largest number of sushi restaurants per capita in Japan, so you know that the seafood here is the real deal.
At the market stalls, freshly caught seafood is sliced up and readied to be sold to customers. While wholesale markets in Japan are usually only open to restaurateurs, the Shiogama Seafood Market happens to also be open (and friendly) to regular visitors and curious travelers as well.
The seafood market here was established in 1965 and miraculously survived destruction by tsunami during the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. It is the only market of its kind left in the Tohoku region, with an atmospheric retro feel including the broad roof sheltering 93 different stalls, many of which have been run by the same family for generations.
One of the highlights of the market is the chance to create one’s own kaisendon (rice bowl topped with seafood). Choosing toppings is simple, as the vendors have convenient signs pointing out which types of seafood can be eaten raw, so even first-time visitors can easily select safe ingredients. The prices are about a third of what fish-lovers could expect to pay in Tokyo, and the quality is far fresher.
One popular non-seafood are the market's thick slices of tamagoyaki (rolled omelet) which are available from a specialized stall. The sweet rolled egg is considered the perfect way to end a meal of sushi or sashimi. For those who prefer their seafood cooked, there are charcoal grills available to rent, along with freshly fried tempura, light nibbles, and drinks while visitors who wish to see the tuna-cutting are most likely to catch the skilled cutters at work on Friday or Saturday, around 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.
The markets of Shiogama are fantastic places and well worth the visit.